Photo by R E V E R I E Photo Co
This article idea was pretty impromptu and came to me as I was perusing the many nanny Facebook groups just two days ago. I was shocked to see so many nannies talking about how the parents they work for won't turn on the air conditioning or keep it set at a really high temperature during the day. These posts are especially frequent on Facebook right now because of the heat wave in California and Arizona. One nanny reported the house being 90 degrees inside. Another nanny showed a photo of the thermostat set at 85 degrees and said she wasn't allowed to change it because the dad pops in unexpectedly from time to time.
I thought to myself, what the heck is going on?! How is this considered acceptable working conditions?? So here's the deal -- I fully recognize that there may be a cultural and/or ecological component to this. I also understand that some people live in an area where AC is not common. I'm talking about hot climates where it is standard to have AC because temperatures are frequently very high. I'm not at all saying you should change your culture or your eco-friendly stance. I'm also not saying you should run out and install an AC for your nanny. I do, however, believe parents need to mention this at the interview. And nannies, this is a question you definitely need to be asking at the interview! Until I saw all these AC posts on Facebook, this had never been a question I thought to ask, but now I see that it's a very important topic to address.
There are definitely nannies out there willing to work in such hot conditions, but most are not. We are running around chasing after kids, doing laundry, cleaning up dishes, tidying up toys -- even with the AC on most nannies are sweating while inside! So here's what I think. Like I previously mentioned, I believe that first and foremost this needs to be addressed at the interview or during the trial period. Next, if you're a nanny and already in this situation and you're really uncomfortable at work due to the heat, I would talk to your employers about it. It's important to be very sensitive when discussing this, especially if it is for cultural/eco reasons -- you need to respect them and the way they live their life. That being said, I don't think it's unreasonable to simply address it and see if the parents are willing to meet you halfway. Explain to them how hot it is and how it interferes with you getting your work done because you get overheated. Explain how uncomfortable it is for you to be working in such high temps for 8-10 hours/day. If the family is unwilling to budge, maybe see if you can schedule playdates at other people's houses or other indoor activities on the really hot days.
Finally, parents -- it's important to recognize that you are employing someone in your home. It would be the same as you going to work everyday at your office and the AC being set at over 80 degrees. Except it could be worse. Because a nanny isn't just in an office, stationary at a desk. A nanny is chasing after children. A nanny is outside for hours at a time with kids and then comes back to the house to run around some more by preparing lunch, cleaning up lunch, changing diapers, putting kids down for nap time, doing laundry, and the list goes on. I know that you get it because that's what it's like on the weekends for you when your nanny is off. And maybe you're okay with it being that hot. Maybe you're used to it. But your nanny might not be. This is why it's important to address this during the interview process so you find yourself a good match. If you didn't address it during the interview, check in with your nanny to see how they feel about the temperature in the house. While it might be a temperature you can tolerate, it might not be something your nanny can tolerate. Personally, when I'm running around and feeling super hot and overheated at work for hours on end, even with the AC on, I sometimes start to feel sick. This might be how your nanny feels. If they do, it's not good for them or for your kids because it will impact the energy they have to interact with your children.
Lastly, I want to reiterate that this seems to very much be a cultural thing. A nanny originally from Australia reported growing up without AC with daily temps frequently reaching 105 degrees in the summer. She survived and believes these nannies and kids will survive as well. She's right. But these nannies may not want to survive in these working conditions. I understand I'm talking about a very first world problem, but please talk with your nanny about whether or not they are okay working without AC.